There’s a popular school of thought in America that anti-Semitism no longer exists.
People assume that because the Holocaust was so long ago, that because Jews have held prominent government positions, and because calls for religious tolerance are becoming more and more frequent, that the battle against anti-Semitism has long been won.
Unfortunately, that is far from the reality.
Not only do hate crimes against Jews still occur, they are on the rise. And that may come as a surprise to a lot of people.
In the last decade, we’ve expended so much energy pushing for income and gender equality, for equal treatment of African-Americans in our criminal justice system, gay and transgender rights, and presently, for greater acceptance of Muslims, immigrants and refugees — and all rightfully so.
But too often when we have a conversation about discrimination, we leave out anti-Semitism. Which is too bad. Because then more people would know that more than 50 percent of anti-religious hate crimes in the U.S. are motivated by anti-Jewish bias, according to the FBI.
As someone who grew up in a Jewish and Catholic household, living in a community with a large Jewish population, and who traveled to Israel three years ago to gain a greater appreciation of my Jewish heritage, it obviously peeves me a little that there isn’t a greater grassroots commitment towards protecting Jewish Americans.
And Trump isn’t helping.
Now, again, I always feel the need to clarify. I don’t believe Trump is anti-Semetic (I also don’t believe he’s the “least anti-Semetic person”), just like I don’t believe he is truly racist. I just think he’s ignorant and lacks any sense of empathy.
But he has unquestionably opened the door for mainstream acceptance of the “alt-right,” an ideology with a doctrine that includes white nationalism, homophobia and, yes, anti-Semitism.
This year alone, 68 bomb threats have been made to Jewish community centers across the U.S. In most of these facilities, emergency evacuation drills have become standard operating procedure.
Given the simmering tension within the Jewish population, wouldn’t it be comforting to hear our nation’s top executive make a firm and declarative statement condemning anti-Semitism? He has to say, something, anything, right?
And then you hear what Trump did say on the topic … and you wish he never spoke at all.
In a span of three days last week, he responded to two questions from Jewish reporters regarding a rise in Jewish hate crimes by, first, bragging about his electoral college victory, and the second time, essentially telling the reporter to sit down and shut up.
I don’t care what your political ideology is. There’s no other acceptable reaction to have towards those responses than that of disbelief and disgust. (Though I will give Ivanka — a converted Jew — credit for speaking out.)
Shortly after, during a trip to the newly opened African-American museum, Trump delivered a clearly canned statement against discrimination, one that lacked any noticeable sincerity and that Jewish leaders were not yet ready to accept.
But that doesn’t mean that others haven’t stepped up to the plate to protect our Jewish brethren.
Remember earlier this year, when a mosque in Victoria, Texas burned to the ground? Not only did a subsequent fundraising campaign come about to help with the rebuilding efforts, but a nearby Jewish synagogue generously offered to share its space to accommodate the Muslim membership.
Well, we now have a new instance of religious camaraderie.
You all may have heard of the terrible vandalism that took place this week in a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis, where hundreds of tombstones were broken and damaged.
This time, a fundraiser urging Muslims to raise money to repair the cemetery raised $20,000 in three hours. They’ve now far surpassed $100,000.
It’s now becoming a common theme.
When our president fails to inspire and properly lead, everyday common people are doing that job for him.
It took a while, but that “coexist” bumper sticker you always see on the back of cars, where each letter is formed by a different religious symbol, is finally starting to come to life.